Gautam Bhatia of ToI makes a case for having a Ministry of Future.
Five years ago, the Swedish government set up a department whose only concern was the future. Not the immediate future of the next decade, but across time — half a century and beyond. The department examines public health, education, housing and other areas of welfare. This, from a people-centric socialist democracy that has made public welfare into a careful equation. In the US, similar concerns are being addressed at private platforms funded by philanthropic institutions to create opportunities and safeguards for their people. Other countries in Europe have devised hypothetical scenarios of increasing population densities, new settlements, fuel and energy requirements, etc and proposed physical solutions for them. New cities with altogether different, experimental parameters are also coming up in China and Abu Dhabi.
Where does this place a country soon to be the most populous by 2025, with 50 megacities, each with more than a million people? How is India placed to tackle future problems of so great a magnitude, when the scourge of the present casts such a spell of doom? The lack of social, political and financial resolve that taints the country with a dismal annual performance, also makes it most suited to have a Ministry for the Future, like Sweden. What would India be like in 2050 and beyond could be correlated by simple math and multiplication. But what would we want India to be like in 2050 is an altogether different — and more difficult — question.
Sweden’s Council for the Future examines methods of cooperation between countries, ways to reconcile competitiveness, employment opportunities in emerging fields and new forms of inclusive social development.
All of it sounds suitably vague, but with education, environment, and innovation under review, the council seeks a challenge far beyond conventional answers, and originally proposed the question, “If the president were to appoint a cabinet member to worry about future generations, what would his/her job be?” It is a question India should have asked after Independence.
It is an interesting idea but should it be implemented by Government? Given how bad we are managing past and current, one is not sure whether givt can deliver on future front. If the ministry lands a bad state of people (of which probability is high), we could just have a comedy of errors.
Such initiatives could actually work better if they are in an independent think tank/research centre funded by diverse set of players. It should be accountable and keep coming out with ideas and share with public for debate.